From education to employment

Demolition ‘Trailblazer’ Apprenticeship reaches new heights in training

A group of twelve apprentices from London South East Colleges have had their heads in the clouds this week as they begin the ‘Working at Heights’ module with Erith Training Ltd.

Harnessed up, the first cohort of the College’s Demolition Trailblazer Apprenticeship Standard received their first taste of working safely and competently at altitude – particularly on scaffolding or mobile elevating work platforms, quite often in confined spaces and under hazardous conditions. For each apprentice, it was the moment of truth; getting to grips with what working as a demolition operative really means.

The Demolition Operative Standard aims to give apprentices a two-year employment and training package with top construction contractors ErithKeltbray and Coleman Group. As well as providing an extensive introduction to the industry, it covers health and safety awareness, using the tools of the trade (both manual and pneumatic), cutting techniques, clearing and soft-stripping, lifting operations, demolition strategies, remote-controlled and tracked demolition machinery, as well as offering extra competencies in maths, English, IT, employability and communications.

Robert Williams is the Training Director at Erith Group and leads on the programme’s practical modules. Welcoming the apprentices for their first day of training, he said: “This programme is all about ensuring new recruits to the trade adhere to its high standards of productivity and safety. Like any construction specialism, demolition requires skilled professionals who can do the job, work collaboratively in a team and ensure the safety of themselves as well as their colleagues. This programme will give you an industry recognised qualification and open up a very exciting career for each of you.”

Sam Allcorn, 25 from Welling, is a former bricklaying student from the College’s Bromley Campus and switched to demolition after seeing the opportunity advertised internally. He said: “I’d never actually considered demolition as a career before. Construction had always meant putting buildings up rather than taking them down. But most new buildings only appear after the old ones have gone and the space cleared and prepared. I’m told there is scope to earn very good salaries in this line of work and, as in many other building trades at the moment, there is a shortage of qualified professionals.”

Sarah Stockley, 21 from Erith signed-up to the programme in May after leaving her job in a local warehouse. She said: “I simply needed something more meaningful than just having ‘a job’. I want to work on different projects, in different locations, on the ground or high up in the air. This is perfect for me and very exciting. So far, I’m loving the experience and I think I’ve made a good choice. I’ve definitely stepped outside of my comfort zone and chosen to take up something that represents a challenge.

“In the past I’ve worked as a nanny in Italy and I loved it. I saw that as taking a leap into the unknown and this opportunity is much the same. Although completely at the other end of the career spectrum, this is a whole new adventure and one I hope leads me to the very top of the profession.”

Charlie Watkins, 19 from Benfleet is employed with Coleman Group and currently working to remove two large gas holders in Horley. He said: “I want to get qualified in as many construction trades as possible and demolition is just one of them. I would like to become a site supervisor or project manager one day and lead on taking down many old and unsafe, unwanted buildings replacing them with the new and modern. I also love working outside and with so many great people.”

If you think you have what it takes to become a construction trade professional and would like to build a successful career in the building services and built environment industries, London South East College has a great range of courses and apprenticeship opportunities to get you started. Click here to learn more.

If you are an employer and thinking of taking on an apprentice or providing your existing staff with bespoke training opportunities that will help them become more qualified and confident in a range of skills, practices and regulations, visit or call 020 3954 4965.

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